192 CMAAO CORONA FACTS and MYTH COVID : Autopsy reports
of COVID 19 patients
Dr K Aggarwal
With input from Dr Monica Vasudev
1064: Medscape excerpts
organ in the body is pretty much affected.
COVID autopsies has been like going to a police line up where one might not be
able to definitively pick out the perpetrator but unlikely suspects can be
learned through autopsy that there's no direct tissue pathology to account for
the acute symptoms that are seen" in the heart, the kidney, and the brain
Pathologists have postulated a handful of hypotheses about the causes of
extensive organ damage in COVID-19, including that hypoxia resulting from
compromised lung function may be causing secondary injuries
pre-disposes the infected to worse morbidity and mortality. Obesity in and of
itself is a pathologic state, that it leads to atherosclerosis, increased
clotting, fatty liver disease, and often, enlarged hearts.
is exhibiting a selectivity for the lungs. In one decedent, bone marrow
response was observed with many myeloid precursors in the peripheral blood
vessels typical in an overwhelming infection.
7. The cells
that SARS-CoV-2 may be targeting are the type II pneumocytes
8. Those lung
surface cells secrete a fatty substance to keep the lobes pliable. And that,
precipitates the diffuse alveolar damage and acute respiratory failure that we
testing and electron microscopy "confirmed viral tropism for pulmonary II
antigen in lung tissue was higher than with SARS or MERS.
detection in epithelial cells of the upper respiratory tract is unique among
these highly pathogenic coronaviruses
autopsies have confirmed clinicians' reports of increased clotting. The virus
may very well be infiltrating the endothelium and causing injury to the blood
Myocarditis is typical of viral diseases, but it has been frustratingly
inconsistent in COVID-19 autopsies. Most have reported very little inflammation
of the heart muscle. At least one death has been directly attributed to
COVID-19–induced lymphohistiocytic and eosinophilic myocarditis. And German researchers report in JAMA
Cardiology that 60 of 100 patients who had recovered from COVID-19 had ongoing
myocardial inflammation, as measured by cardiovascular magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI). Many collegiate football programs, reporting evidence of
myocarditis in athletes who have recovered from COVID-19, said they would
postpone their seasons.
14. But, looks
like, what they are seeing by [MRI] is not true myocarditis but something else
as per Richard S. Vander Heide, MD, PhD, MBA, a professor of pathology at
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans
15. So far,
autopsy studies have found no typical myocarditis in nearly every case.
Heide and colleagues published cardiopulmonary findings from 10 autopsies
conducted on African Americans who died from COVID-19 in The Lancet in May and
updated it with an additional 12 cases in Circulation in July. Six of the 22
had a history of heart disease. All had diffuse alveolar damage — a
histopathologic marker of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) — in
addition to pulmonary thrombi and microangiopathy. In all the cases, the virus
was not found in the heart muscle cells and there was no evidence of what the
authors called "typical lymphocytic myocarditis. In the newer study,
Vander Heide and colleagues used electron microscopy to find what appeared to
be viral particles in the vascular cells in the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Vander Heide, whose primary research interest is myocardial cell injury and
adaptation, believes the infection of these endothelial cells is leading to
clotting abnormalities in the heart's small vessels, causing inflammation. The
heart cells are dying, but not from myocarditis. Instead, he thinks it's likely
that the clotting is causing cell death from ischemia.
17. Some pathologists
are looking at vascular changes, which are "among the distinctive features
of COVID-19," write Maximilian Ackermann, MD, and colleagues in an article
published in May in the New England Journal of Medicine.
compared lungs of seven patients who died from COVID-19 with seven who died
from ARDS secondary to influenza, as well as those from 10 age-matched,
uninfected patients. The COVID-19 lungs exhibited severe endothelial injury,
which appeared to be associated with intracellular SARS-CoV-2 virus.
19. There also
was widespread vascular thrombosis with microangiopathy and occlusion of
alveolar capillaries and significant new vessel growth from an unusual form of
angiogenesis called intussusceptive angiogenesis — a reactive formation of new
vessels where one splits into two, said co-author William W. Li, MD, president
and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation.
thromboembolism has also been observed in patients, including in a study at the
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany that was published in
May in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Coronavirus infections may be a trigger for venous thromboembolism
potential mechanisms include endothelial dysfunction, systemic inflammation,
and a pro-coagulatory state.
Researchers at Hospital Graz II in Graz, Austria, also homed in on thrombosis,
with evidence of it in all 11 autopsies they conducted, according to an article
published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Pathologists were initially reluctant to take on COVID-19 autopsies, especially
any that would involve aerosol-generating procedures. The College of American
Pathologists attempted to allay fears with guidelines that recommend techniques
that minimize those procedures, including using hand shears or other
alternatives to an oscillating bone saw (also recommended by the CDC) or using
a vacuum shroud with the bone saw.
pointed out that there have been no reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission
from a corpse to any pathologist, morgue technician, or assistant. Still, his
informal survey in March of pathologists on a LISTSERV he manages found that
only six out of 50 respondents were conducting autopsies. A month later, that
number had risen to 30.
26. The CDC
recommends autopsies be done in a negative pressure suite, which are more
common at academic centers.